Eclipse fever hits Morgan County

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By Michelle Hollenhead

Morgan County is getting in on “total eclipse fever” Monday, Aug. 21, when the Obed Wild and Scenic River hosts viewing events at the Visitor’s Center in Wartburg and Lilly Overlook, within the park itself.

Attention is focused on the park, because it is within the “path of totality,” a 70-mile swath of the United States, stretching diagonally from Lincoln City, Oregon to Charleston, S.C.

This specific region will experience the full eclipse, from beginning to end.

Park officials will be at both locations, discussing safe viewing practices and handing out official eclipse glasses long as supplies last, said Rick Ryan, who has planned the Morgan County events, along with four in surrounding counties.

He estimated all six sites will have a total of 10,000 glasses to distribute, beginning at 11 a.m.

The actual event begins around 1 p.m., when the moon will seemingly begin to “cover” the sun, and conclude around 4 p.m. The complete coverage of the sun, or “totality,” will last an estimated one minute, 15 seconds starting around 2:30 p.m.

At that time, the sun will be completely blocked out. It is the only time when the event can be viewed with the naked eye, Ryan said.

Up to that point, and afterward, it is crucial for spectators to wear protective eye gear to avoid permanent eye damage.

At the visitor’s center, Ryan said it is planned to have a smart TV in the lobby, which will tie in to a live feed from NASA.

Also, at Lilly Overlook, two telescopes will be on site to help spectators see all phases of the eclipse.

Ryan said the event is more than unique.

“It has been almost 100 years since a total solar eclipse has covered the country like this is going to do.

“While many people probably have seen and remember partial eclipse, a total solar eclipse just happens once in a lifetime.”

While these are two official sites, Ryan said people can stand in their yards to see the eclipse.

“Just make sure to use proper and approved glasses,” he said. “Make sure they are not knock-off brands, but look for those that are certified and made in America.

“Typically, those made in China, for example, are not going to be safe.”

The Obed Visitor Center is located at 208 N. Maiden Street in Wartburg, while the Lilly Bluff Overlook can be found just after crossing Lilly Bridge on Ridge Road.

Parking will be limited in both areas. Visitors are encouraged to carpool and arrive early to be present before the eclipse begins. At Lilly Bluff Overlook, there is no parking available for buses or RV’s.

Those who plan to attend either organized event are advised to prepare, Ryan said, and bring water, a hat, sunscreen and possibly a chair.

He also addressed the potential for overcast or rainy weather.

“If the weather is questionable, we just ask that people call the Visitor’s Center for updates.”

For more information, please contact the visitor center at (423) 346-6294.